Cougs ailing; but Hill says confidence high

AT LEAST THREE COUGAR STARTERS, and possibly a fourth, could miss the UCLA tilt this Saturday unless changes occur on the WSU Medical Report between now and game time. Nevertheless, senior wide receiver and team captain Jason Hill says the 34-23 victory over the nationally ranked Oregon Ducks on Saturday could be just the tonic to kick start a crimson stretch drive to remember.

Defensive tackles Aaron Johnson and Ropati Pitoitua, along with right guard Andy Roof are all out indefinitely according to Monday evening's release from Washington State.

The report lists Johnson with an elbow sprain, Pitoitua with a medial collateral ligament sprain and Roof with a heel bruise and ankle sprain.

The WSU depth chart this week shows Bryan Tarkington and Matt Eichelberger as the 1s. The duo, forced into action in the first quarter against the Ducks after Pitoitua and AJ were injured, each had a solid outing against a high powered Oregon offense, as the defense held UO without an offensive touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.

Listed as "No Practice" is another Cougar starter injured during the Oregon win -- corner Tyron Brackenridge. A top performer for Washington State this season, Brackenridge strained a hamstring in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

If the senior is held out, Brian Williams has seen a good amount of turns off the bench this season and also has two starts, filling in for Don Turner against Idaho and Baylor when Turner missed time with a hip contusion. Ryan Kensok, Markus Dawes, working his way back into form after missing extended time this season with a high ankle sprain, Courtney Williams and B.T. Walker could all be called upon to shoulder the load.

DT Fevaea'i Ahmu, out since Week 5 with a partial stress fracture in his foot, remained listed as out indefinitely on Monday. Coach Bill Doba had said last week there was a chance the Cougs could get the sophomore d-tackle back for UCLA pending X-Rays. It was unclear at press time Monday evening if the X-Rays results were in. More could be known on Tuesday on the status of Ahmu and the others.

Defensive end Mike Graise, held out of action against Oregon with a hamstring strain, is listed as No Practice to begin the week.

But there was also some good news on the injury front. Tight end Cody Boyd will begin practicing this week, albeit in limited fashion. Boyd has been out of action for the past two weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered against Oregon State.

Backup quarterback Gary Rogers (AC shoulder joint sprain) will also be limited in practice this week.

EVEN WITH THE loss of Johnson and Pitoitua in the first quarter, and Roof early in the second, the Cougs built a 10-point lead at halftime, eventually extending it to 24 points against Oregon and putting the game out of reach.

No surprise then that despite the injuries to the starters, it was a confident Cougar locker room following the game. That confidence was still apparent Monday.

"We definitely believe the rest of the way out, starting with UCLA, we can win them all," said receiver Jason Hill.

A yellow no-contact jersey is likely to be worn again by Hill this week. But the senior said his shoulder sprain is improving, and "getting better every day, the more time I can get off and the less amount of hits on it (during the practice week), the better it will be."

With UCLA next up, Hill said he expects the Cougs will be well prepared by the time they set foot in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

"Coming into the game, there was nothing Oregon could have done that we hadn't seen and were prepared for...that's all a credit to the coaches," said Hill. "I gave all the coaches a big hug (Saturday), it was an exciting atmosphere in the locker room."

The WSU Medical Report from Washington State Sports Information:

Out Indefinitely - Fevaea'i Ahmu (9/30 stress fracture, foot), Chris Baltzer (9/20 knee ACL), Joe Eppele (9/7 shoulder surgery), Aaron Johnson (10/21 elbow sprain), Chris Jordan (9/22 knee surgery), Matt Mullennix (9/6 ACL surgery), Andy Roof (10/21 heel bruise/right ankle sprain), Ropati Pitoitua (10/21 MCL sprain), Jason Stripling (shoulder surgery recovery), Ben Woodard (10/7 MCL sprain)
No Practice - Tyron Brackenridge (10/21 hamstring strain), Mike Graise (10/14 hamstring strain), Grady Maxwell (10/17 shoulder strain)
Limited - Cody Boyd (10/7 high ankle sprain), Gary Rogers (10/14 AC sprain Grade 3)

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